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Secretary Spellings Praises 30 Years of Service by Hispanic Scholarship Fund
Prepared Remarks for Secretary Spellings at a Luncheon Recognizing the 30th Anniversary of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund
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November 15, 2005
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U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings today addressed a luncheon in Washington recognizing the 30th anniversary of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. Following are her prepared remarks:

Thank you. It's an honor to be here today on the 30th anniversary of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. I want to thank your chairman, Dr. Roger Benjamin. And let me also thank my good friend and your president, Sara Martinez Tucker, for inviting me today. Sara was recently named a distinguished alumna of the University of Texas. And she was inducted into the McCombs School of Business Hall of Fame for her work in the private sector and at the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. I'm thrilled to have her on my new commission on the future of higher education. Sara's a woman who believes in setting high goals. And when she surpasses them, she just raises the bar even higher.

On your 25th anniversary five years ago, you pledged to award an additional $50 million for scholarships within the next five years. Today, you've done much more than just meet this goal. You've more than doubled it! Congratulations! Over the last 30 years, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund has awarded nearly $170 million dollars of scholarship money to more than 34,000 Hispanic students. Sara likes to call every single one of these students, "her kids." 34,000 kids through college! As a mom, I don't know how you do it. At the moment, I'm finding it's hard enough to get just one kid through.

But I do know the mission of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund is more important today than ever before. In 1975, when the Hispanic Scholarship Fund started its work, there were fewer than 12 million Hispanic Americans in the United States.

Today, one in seven Americans is of Hispanic descent, with well over 40 million Hispanic Americans in the country. And on average, the Hispanic population is far younger than the rest of the U.S. population. One in every five children under 18 is of Hispanic origin. For our country to remain economically, civically, and democratically viable, we must ensure all these children receive the quality education they deserve.

And thanks to No Child Left Behind, we're putting a laser like focus on closing the achievement gap. It's working too. The latest nation's education report card came out just a few weeks ago, and it shows more minority students are catching up to their peers than ever before. In the last two years, the number of Hispanic fourth graders who learned fundamental math skills increased by 45,000. You could fill a baseball stadium with all those kids.

We still have a lot more work to do. About 80 percent of the fastest-growing jobs require postsecondary education, yet only about 10 percent of Hispanic Americans have a college degree. In other words, a college education is more important than ever, and far too few Hispanic Americans have one. That's unacceptable.

The Hispanic Scholarship Fund has led the charge to change these numbers. And you started by setting a goal—doubling the rate of Hispanics earning college degrees in this country by 2010. You're making it happen too. The Hispanic Scholarship Fund provides more Hispanic students with college scholarships than any other organization. Last year alone, you awarded over 4,900 scholarships.

And best of all, you don't just send students to college. You help them graduate. 97 percent of your students go on to get their degrees.

As you know, scholarships alone don't get students through college. We must help more Hispanic students get into the college pipeline and graduate from high school ready for the challenges of higher education. That's why President Bush and I are supporting high school reform that will extend the benefits of accountability and higher standards to our older students.

We also must do a better job helping families navigate the college process. It's hard for parents to get good, sound information on how it all works. I remember last year sitting in a bookstore and thumbing through college guides for my oldest daughter who is a freshman this year. I had trouble finding the answers I needed, and I'm the secretary of education! So I know how confusing the process can be for parents.

It can be even more confusing for many Hispanic students who are often the first in their families to attend college. Many people just assume college is unaffordable or unattainable. You're helping to change these perceptions with outreach efforts to thousands of families in the Hispanic community.

As part of my new commission on the future of higher education, I've asked Sara to chair a committee to study how we can help make higher education more accessible. The commission will be addressing issues such as: Why is the cost of college rising so rapidly, and how can we make college more affordable? And how well are institutions of higher education preparing our students to compete in the 21st century? As a nation, we must have a national dialogue on our shared vision for higher education.

Throughout our history, we've always answered the call to extend the promise of higher education to more Americans. It's part of our nation's commitment to expand the American dream. And with Sara's leadership, I know this commission will provide specific recommendations to help make higher education more affordable and accessible for all Americans.

We all have a stake in this work. And we must partner together at all levels to help our students. Once again, you're leading the way with cutting-edge partnerships with other major foundations. You're proving what we can do when we all work together to help our students. I'm happy to celebrate four new foundation grant programs today that will help you touch thousands of more lives.

  • The W. K. Kellogg Foundation grant will help launch a new National Hispanic Education Alliance. This alliance will help bring the best research on Hispanic learning to schools and communities across the country.

  • You're also working with the Lumina Education Foundation to create a peer-counseling network to help Hispanic students stay in school and graduate from college.

  • The Goizueta Foundation grant will fund programs to help foster a stronger college-going culture in the Hispanic community. Raising expectations is the first step to raising enrollment numbers.

  • Finally, you've also started to work with the Lilly Endowment to help universities do a better job informing, attracting, and retaining Hispanic students. And you're starting with pilot programs at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Georgia. In just a moment, I'm going to turn over the podium to the presidents of these two fine institutions, so we can learn more about this exciting new program.

And at the U.S. Department of Education, we're committed to doing our part as well. We've partnered with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities to give young Hispanic Americans more opportunities to intern and work at the Department. I've asked acting Assistant Secretary Beto Gonzalez to oversee this effort. We're also strengthening federal financial aid programs and investing almost $100 million in institutions that focus on helping Hispanic students realize the dream of college.

Let me end by congratulating you again on an incredible 30 years. You've given thousands of students the chance to go to college and live the American dream. And your work is only growing more important and larger in scope. You've set the bar high for the next five years. And I look forward to working with you to expand opportunity and to help all Hispanic students realize their potential.

Thanks again for inviting me today. And it's now my pleasure to introduce another fellow Texan, Dr. Larry Faulkner, from the University of Texas at Austin. He's had a distinguished career as an academic and as an administrator, and I know the University of Texas at Austin will miss him when he retires next year. I also want to introduce Dr. Mike Adams from the University of Georgia. He's done great work at Georgia and has been an important leader in the higher education community. It's an honor to introduce Dr. Adams and Dr. Faulkner today.

Thank you.

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Last Modified: 11/16/2005